Rozina counts every day for six months running. Her family starts working long before the sun rises even when her small kids are remaining in the deepest sleep. She feels bad about calling them for work but like every day she cruelly has to do it. Everyone comes to have breakfast when the rice is still in the process of cooking. She rapidly waves her hand and lets the fire rise. During this time she quietly thinks about their time in the village that is far far away from this isolated brick field. She recalls her abandoned home and acutely feels a need to see the village sooner. But her urge quickly vanishes when she also remembers those days of starvation. Jalil sleeps in the bed that is made by gathering brick after brick. Rozina tried to hide those bricks by a flowery bed cover. Razina and Jalil have been married for ten years. Along with their five-year daughter and six year old son her family comes to work in this brick filed for six months in every year.
The houses that have been built by brick field owners are home to 100 brick field workers’ families. Just like Rozina they are living in hope of returning to their village one day. No one decorates their house. If a family buys any new item it goes into a box and it remain there until they get a final call to go back to their real home in the village. Rozina’s red bangles, her daughter’s new shoes, boy’ toy; everything goes into the trunk. She also keeps some precious things of her mother-in-law who dies last year from tuberculosis. Everyone says her mother-in-law died because she worked in the brick filed. Rozina does not believe it. Once the whole family strived for three days and no one died that time. Death is written by fate. This brick field is a way for them to survive; a way to feed themselves and their children.
The sound of songs awakens the brick field locality. The brick field workers start working. They are used to listening to songs from their mobile phones. The rhythm of the songs motivates them to work. Rahmat Miah has been working in brick field for seventeen years. The day he started understanding life he found himself in the brick field. During childhood he used to help his father for transferring bricks or lining the piles. Till today he does not do any work other than working in brick field. After carrying 5000 bricks he can manage to earn 200 taka for doing the bazaar shopping for his family. Sometimes he could save a little amount after cutting all costs. But his body does not help him much. Every month he has to take leave for 4-5 days because of illness then he has to spend out of that precious savings for food or medicine.
Men, women and children everyone remains busy in the brick field. Sometimes when the sun goes up in the overhead a few older men or women fall to the ground. Then they get an hour break. They have to carry or shift or line up 5000-10000 bricks every day. However they loudly chat in a half an hour break. They smoke and talk about the economy and the politics. Women generally rest in silence and sometimes go to their quarters to do quick house chores. Children work continuously. It seems that working is some kind of important game. Small Minara who is just four years old collects coal from the brick field. Why does she collect coal? After a long silence she replies boldly, ‘This is my job’.
During the one hour lunch break they eat a lot. Three plates of rice and lentil is their daily lunch menu. Men who are living with their families eat with them; those who came alone to the brick field eat in groups of men. A few go to take a quick nap. This is a kind of moment when they will not speak or hear a single word. All are tired, very very tired. Life goes on; work starts again after break.
Smoke and ashes blow everywhere. Workers’ bodies turn black in smoke and ashes and their feet turn black like coal. Still they continue to work in a dreamless brick field. In the middle of this Rozina dreams to go back to her village. Rahmat tries hard to save a few pennies, the children continue to collect coal. Very Far from the town the workers of the brick field continue to work to build our urban world.
The wearing of the *hijab reflects the modern Muslim woman’s independence, her new world attitude in which she has a choice in whether she follows this old tradition or not. Her hijab displays her confidence to live life on her own terms and communicates the message that she is respected, intelligent and a pious person in her culture. She is also purposefully not drawing attention to herself vis-à-vis the male population in certain Muslim countries such as Bangladesh.
Beside religious value, this piece of folded head scarf can tell much about a woman. So, what does your hijab say about you? The colour, the style, the adornments, if any, all reflect the individual. There could be stripes or flowers that represent the softness, the brightness. These choices allow a woman to express who she is. The hijab sends clear signals about a Muslim woman and her personality. The increasing trend of wearing stylish hijabs or head scarves among young females in Bangladesh is not all about fashion nor has it been imposed upon them by Muslim parents or family. I have interviewed a hundred young Bangladeshi women and have compiled their opinions in order to know what has most inspired them to wear the hijab.
‘My hijab is my protection from all those evil eyes around me. The hijab is a message to wicked men that they no longer can stare at me rudely when I am on the road.’ – Juthi, student
‘As a NGO worker I have to travel a lot on public transport and sometimes I come home late at night. My hijab is my protection. It’s been 6-7 years that I have been covering myself as I had a bitter experience of street harassment. Men used to look at me and other women as if they were raping us through their eyes. As a woman I felt vulnerable and weak even though I used to wear modest clothes. But I have to confess that from the day I started wearing a hijab, men started to look at me less. I felt strong inside.’ – Siuly, NGO worker
‘I am a housewife. I feel very good after I wear a hijab. Even when I look at girls who wear hijabs it seems very respectable to me. It is one kind of self-protection and my aim is to follow footsteps of pious Muslim women’ – Jesmin, housewife
‘It’s been two months since I started wearing a hijab. I feel encouraged by so many girls nowadays wearing hijabs. Two out of five girls are wearing hijabs. For me it brings peace as my family often remains tense when I am out of the home. The hijab is my protection from all evil looks.’ – Kasfia
‘In Islam it’s mandatory for women to cover their bodies with veils. Islam gives women a respectful place in society. Since childhood I have been wearing a hijab. It has impacted my life as it is not only about folding a cloth and covering the body but it also encourages a woman to stand up and move with dignity. Because from the heart I know I am not only covering my body but also not letting men look at me badly. I believe it gives women respect.’ – Jinath Rehana Sheuli
‘As a student I have to travel every day from home to university. After wearing a hijab for two years I face less evil teasing and it has given me a sense of good feeling that I am maintaining my life in the light of Islam.’ – Laboni
‘You can look stylish as a modern Muslim woman when you wear a hijab. It gives me protection and also makes a woman look very beautiful in a hijab.’ – Mumu, a student
‘Some girls wear hijabs in order to get a good marriage proposal or they just to do it to be in style. But for me it has come from inside. When I did not wear a hijab I experienced men who looked at women as if they were a product on the road and could eye them over any way they wanted. I have seen ill-meaning men’s expressions while on the road. But since the day I started wearing a hijab I have never faced such vulgar looks any longer. My hijab is my safety and self-respect.’
– Muna, school teacher
‘Dhaka is a very busy city though a few women travel by bus. Whenever I went outside I faced the problem that men used to look at me badly. I started feeling very angry and did not know what to do. My friend started wearing a hijab a couple of months ago and advised me to also wear a hijab. After wearing a hijab I am mentally satisfied that at least I am not showing my body to people. If they still try to see me, it is their ill behavior.’ – Lima
I am in the last semester of my MBA. I have been wearing a hijab for six years now. It wasn’t for any reason of fashion nor for conservatism. Islam encourages women to wear decent clothes and commands them to cover their heads and bodies when they go out in public. I easily can move around as I feel safe in a hijab.’ – Nahid Haque
‘As a student I have to come out of my home every day. It is very difficult to manage time to get ready. When I am wearing a hijab it helps me to get ready easily. Also my family does not have to worry about me much as girls who wear hijabs face less teasing in the street.’ – Tania
‘Many girls are wearing hijabs for fashion. But this should not be. A hijab is to protect you from evil eyes. The girls who are very open and show their bare skin in public are seeking attention from men. But a hijabi girl is beautiful because she realizes her inner beauty more than her outer beauty.’ – Tajnuva
‘A girl can wear a hijab and still be beautiful. It gives us protection and respect.’ – Sharmin
‘From my teenage years I have been wearing a hijab. It is part of being beautiful. In some universities in Dhaka a full veil is not allowed, so I choose a hijab. It is comfortable and always protective.’ – Sania Sultana, a student
‘I am a teacher and have been wearing a hijab for three years. I do not support girls who are doing it for style or who use it as fashion. It has remained as a protector for women for hundreds of years. Women feel comfortable and it brings security for a decent girl who does not want to show bare skin. Some people argue a woman should not wear a hijab as it makes them look weak, but I completely disagree. It takes courage in a world of style where women tend to wear short clothes. Its dignified Muslim women who cover up their bodies and go searching for respect rather than seeking attention.’ – Simul, teacher
‘I believe in modesty. It’s been three years since I have been wearing a hijab. For me it is a self-defense as it has protected me from evil eyes. I am a Muslim and a married working woman. Since the day, I started wearing a hijab I noticed that men in the streets were not bothering me insistently. It has given me a sense of dignity and I started seeing respect in people’s eyes for me. When I cannot stop evil eyes at least I can cover up myself and follow the advice that my religion gives me.’ – Subarna Parvin (28 years old), teacher
‘I have been wearing a hijab for more than eight years. My mother, grandmothers all wore hijabs or veils. It is not about style or fashion. It is mandatory for a Muslim woman to wear a hijab.’ – Tajlima Akter
‘Muslim women can be stylish like Western girls. For that there is no need to show skin. I feel a hijab makes a girl more beautiful. Not only does it protect the dignity of the girl, but it also it protects hair and skin.’ – Papia
‘Everyday more girls are wearing hijabs. It’s a protection from sunlight and pollution. By wearing a hijab I am covering my hair and wearing decent clothes. I feel very much protected since the day I started wearing a hijab.’ – Pihu
Life was never easy for Jarina Begum. During childhood she lost her parents in the Kamplapur railway station. She had no memory of her childhood. Lonely Jarina’s struggle never takes a break. After living here and there at the age of twelve, people from her locality gave her a marriage with Ismail. She knew nothing about family life though she started to dream. A few years went well. This was the best time of her life. But when her only son died at the age of twelve her family was shattered. Her husband got involved in drugs. Her happiness lost in darkness. She again gets back her hope during her second pregnancy. ‘Mali’ arrives as an angel in her life. She started dreaming about having a normal life again. But fate was not on Jarina’s side. She discovered when Mali was two years old that she is mentally disabled. Also when Mali was two Jarina’s husband died from taking excess drugs. Till today ‘Disabled Mali’ is the reason to live Jarina’s Life.
Now Jarina is only Mali’s maa. Mali behaves like a child at the age of thirteen. She has very slow mental growth. Jarina has to connect her to a chain so that she cannot flee alone while her mother went to work. She was lost twice while Jarina went to work. The tragedy of Jarina losing her own parents is like a nightmare for her. She does not want to lose Mali again. After finding her, she found a way to keep Mali at their place. She chained her with a long chain. She goes to work in the morning and works madly while feeling the tension of Mali. She collects paper from the road. She carefully crosses the road everyday as she knows if she died there is no one for Mali. With cloudy eyes Jarina said, ‘I put a chain on her leg and put a stone in my heart’. While she was saying this, Mali untied her pajama bottoms and squatted to do her toilet. Jarina swiftly wnt there and covered her daughter with a cloth. Mali is Jarina’s world.
Jarina dreams one day Mali will be okay. Sometimes she gets upset thinking, if Mali could be like other girls, she could help her with earning a living; she could understand how hard it is to work feverishly. But Mali understands nothing. She can only feel the touch of love, the smile of affection. When Jarina ties her hair Mali gives kisses on her mother’s cheeks. When Jarina is feeding her, Mali takes some rice and puts in her mother’s mouth. They have nothing; no home, and no furniture and no utensils with which to cook. This mother and daughter have only love that is sheltering them so far.
As street people, Jarina and Mali have nothing. They only possess a few household materials that Jarina ties up and hides in a neighbor’s place because Mali cannot take care of anything while her mother goes to work. The neighbors of Jarina help her when she goes to work. They look out for Jarina if someone comes to disturb disabled Mali. The neighbor Kalpona said, ‘There is no one for this mother and daughter. They are living for each other. We see no one like Jarina who is doing this much for Mali. We pray for their happiness.’
Jarina Begum has now only one dream in life: to educate Mali in order to give her a normal life and to see her as an able person. Jarina pointed at the pen and drawing paper of Mali and said, ‘If there is any heartfelt person who could admit her to a school for the disabled then I can I die in peace’. While embracing Mali, Jarina lastly said, ‘Pray for us so that we, the mother and daughter, can die together. Why is life so painful?’
I grew up seeing my ancestors’ orange beards or hair. It is so common in our culture that I was hardly curious to know why older Muslim people colour their hair, beards or moustaches. With time I learned and found out that it was very natural to know about the importance of henna in Muslim Culture.
But for the first time I realized and wanted to know about the real motivation of different individual Muslim men and women for dyeing their grey hair. The first time I started asking the question was when many of my foreigner friends asked me about it frequently during their visits in Bangladesh. Then I started noticing that this colour is making this older generation different. So I started asking the Muslim older generation why they colour their grey beards or hair and what is it that they are so fond of?
This series consists of portraits of men and women in Bangladesh who have dyed their hair or their beard using the orange-red colour produced by the flowering Henna plant. They shared with me why they use this henna in particular. It’s very common in Bangladesh to see one older person in five old people with orange hair (male or female), and men with orange beards or orange moustaches.
During Ramadan dying hair or beards is a very common practice as Henna dying comes from religious beliefs too. It has been believed that the Prophet Muhammad (SM) dyed his beard and hair as well. Some men and women who have returned from the Haaj, the Islamic pilgrimage also practice Henna dying. Not only in Bangladesh, but many Muslims across all continents apply Henna dye and coat their hair to get this bright coloured look.
For those who did not reference religion as playing a role in their decision to color their hair, they consider it admirable to do so. They believe, Henna covers their head and body and makes them look good in their old age. Therefore, for some other elderly people, especially women, Henna is mostly used as a cosmetic thing for their grey hair. A lot of men also see a red beard as preferable to a grey or white beards. Besides this reason many older persons usually follow this practice for cultural or traditional reasons, as they saw that older generations always prefer henna dying.
Why did you use Henna dye?
Answers of question:
‘I am not old. We all eat polluted food and that causes hair loss and greying is faster. Henna helped to hide my grey hair. Grey means old’ – Mohamaad Sagir
‘It’s our Sunnat. Our Prophet Muhammad used it’ – Gias Uddin
‘Henna helps to clam down my head and body. I dye my hair every month.’ – Abdul Majid
‘I use henna dye because I love to do it. What else!’- Yusuf Haulader
‘I love color more than grey. It’s my fashion. Ha ha ha’ – Mohammad Oli
‘It distinguishes Muslim. It is our culture’ – Obaidullah
‘Who likes grey hair? I want to be young. Ha ha ha’ – Kashem
‘Most of my friends do henna dying. For the last two years I am doing it also’ – Gias Uddin
‘Since I have come from the Haaj I started applying Henna to my hair. It has religious value’- Abdul Samad
‘Not only have I, but my wife has dyed her hair to hide the grey. Both of us want to remain young. Ha ha ha’ – Abdul Kader
‘It’s our tradition, our Muslim tradition’ – Amina
‘My grandfather did it, my father did it and now I am doing it. All older Muslim people love to practice this generation after generation.’ – Mohammad Alam
Brick field labouer’s feet tell their tales. Thousands of men, women and children continue tolling in the open brick fields. Their muddy clothes, smudged coal colored skins and bare feet tell the tale about how everyday they are fighting to live a life. I continue to search their stories of struggle about how their hope transform into despair. Once a labourer stopped me to take his portrait and asked me to take an image of his feet and said, ‘Show our feet. It’s enough to explain what we are up to.’
Under the baking hot tropical sun, Moriyum (7 years old) continues to collect coals in the most perilous conditions even though everyone goes to lunch. Just after shifting 1000 bricks to dry in the sun, Moriyum’s brother Mohsin (9 years old) also goes to lunch. But Moriyum continued to collect coal for her family.
Working children are a common sight at the brickworks as they regularly employ entire families – who oftentimes make their homes on site. Education is a luxury for Bangladesh’s rural poor with children often earning their keep as soon as they can walk. Ranging in age from young children to grandparents, they work long hours to mix out millions of bricks to fuel construction boom that shows no signs of abating. The high chimneys of brick fields are snot only pouring grey smoke into the air but also blowing it into labourer’s lungs. All of the brick fields are located along rivers. Millions of bricks are burned here. Almost all bricks are made using a 150-year-old technology. Soil is mixed with water, formed into bricks using wooden forms, then left to dry in the sun before being burned in traditional kilns. The process is done almost entirely by hand.
Kohinoor who was balancing the heavy loads atop her head said, ‘We work like slaves. And we die like slaves.’ Kohinoor’s mother-in-law died last year while working in the brick filed. Another woman who has worked a decade in the field was badly suffering from tuberculosis and headaches. Kohinoor added, ‘We know we will die by working here, but we have no option.’
Brick-making provides a better income than agriculture or other jobs available in rural Bangladesh, but it is dangerous and often devastating to workers’ health. Accidents are common and workers have no protective gear except save for what they are able to cobble together themselves.
By balancing the heavy loads atop their heads, workers must carry the raw mud to the brick making area are where skilled artisans shape it using brick moulds filled by hand. However, the millions of workers who make the bricks face harsh and uncertain conditions. Brick field labourer Makbul said, ‘Everything tastes like mud. I taste mud in my mouth, tongue, throat everywhere.’ By showing the feet of Makbul’s friend, Jasim said, ‘We are brick human. We have feet like coal.’
Like Makbul and Jashim, hundreds of men come with their families during the brick session in the brick fields. They made their temporary shelter near the brick field in the place given by the brick field owner. The mud house’s bed is made by brick after brick and then putting plastic over the bricks where they rest and sleep. They took loan from the brick field owner which and continue to pay it back by giving labour with full family. Small children of each family works to dry thousands of brick every day. For drying 1000-5000 bricks a child gets 25-50 taka daily. That also goes into the pocket of father for buying food for the family. The Father and mother of each family go to work before sun rise. They carry 12-16 bricks each weighting 2.5kg. For a twelve-hour workday during which an average worker carries about five thousand bricks, he earns Tk. 80 after his expenses are paid. This means toiling 12 hours a day for a daily wage of 120 taka (USD 1.70) for men and 100 taka (USD 1.40) for women.
Still they hope for a better life and perhaps dream of happiness. During his break, after lighting a cigarette Motahar said, ‘My wife often asks me to take her to the cinema. We have no money left after basic shopping at the bazaar and paying loans. But she managed to save and bought an old phone for me. Now while I work, I listen to songs.’
(Brick fields are not only causing suffering for labourer but for the environment also. Bangladesh is hit harder than almost any other country in the world by climate change despite emitting very little greenhouse gases. But still the emissions from the brick kilns hurt the environment. Brick kilns are the leading cause of air pollution in the country. There are about 5000 brick kilns in Bangladesh, which are largely responsible for air pollution. Dust from the brick-making sites spreads in the wind to nearby towns and villages clogging the lungs of young and old and generates health problems that the country is ill-equipped to handle. The chimneys continue to poison labourer lives and as well as letting the environment to suffer in silence)
‘My camera is a vessel to reach to my dream. I started documenting suffering and find beauty in ugliness, happiness in despair, dreams in suffocation. I am just a poor storyteller who has nothing but a suitcase full of tales’ – GMB AKASH
Love is my religion; unity is my faith/ www.akash-images.com
If you taste the love, you are already rich/ www.akash-images.com
I am on a journey to seek the remedy of Life / www.akash-images.com
When I take off the mask from my soul, I find the beauty of living/ www.akash-images.com
May everyone who loves God honor the path of everyone else. May all the sacred scriptures be universally cherished as the treasures of all mankind / www.akash-images.com
I continue to search for myself / www.akash-images.com
The beauty of life is hidden in the HOPE and in the possibilities of life itself/ www.akash-images.com
Every person has a story and an end/ www.akash-images.com
To taste life prepare to taste thousands of deaths / www.akash-images.com
Living a simple life is hardest because the whole world continues to show you greed in the name of happiness
If you seek to know the truth of universe, you’ll have the power of the whole universe with you
For living life once I cut off the wings of my soul, now for tasting life I cut out my greed. That’s how my journey starts/ www.akash-images.com
You live in the world and my world lives in me/ www.akash-images.com
My race begins of deriving the internal peace / www.akash-images.com
You have done everything to feed your body, what have you done to feed your soul
You can get life if you can get rid of fear/ www.akash-images.com
I can only take a look at my own soul and follow its map / www.akash-images.com
“Sometimes I feel – I am wearing perfume in the middle of the desert” – GMB Akash
“Sometimes the strongest women are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors, and fights battles that nobody knows about. This blog post is dedicated to honour women who are living at the edge of the society and continue their fighting to earn food and dignity, who merely ever come in the world’s limelight; even the society they are living have never appreciated their bravery. I have met with many of them, discovered closely how women have worked for the greater good and brought about change in their families and society. This is a way to tribute to a mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend and the many roles she plays in life. These personalities have made me understand that nothing can kill the spirit of a woman and that makes her incredibly beautiful” – GMB Akash
Many women have broken away from tradition, knowing fully it leads a tough road to walk/ www.akash-images.com
Be fearless/ www.akash-images.com
A woman cannot be free until she is financially free/www.akash-images.com
Each time a woman stand up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women/ www.akash-images.com
In diversity there is beauty and there is strength/ www.akash-images.com
Success isn’t measured by your wins, it’s the size of the challenges you overcame/ www.akash-images.com
Living life on the edge with dream/ www.akash-images.com
The strongest actions for a woman is to love herself, be herself and shine amongst those who never believed she could/ www.akash-images.com
Dreams don’t work unless you do/ www.akash-images.com
You have to do what is right for yourself; nobody else is walking in your shoes/ www.akash-images.com
Be an encourager/ www.akash-images.com
When a woman wants she can become an unstoppable force/ www.akash-images.com
Nothing can dim the light that shines from within/ www.akash-images.com
Don’t let anyone stop you from your goals, dreams and true happiness/ www.akash-images.com
Yesterday is nothing more than a lesson. Today is who you are/ www.akash-images.com
Be yourself. Life is what you make of it/ www.akash-images.com
There’s nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women/ www.akash-images.com
Don’t let anyone to dull your sparkle/ www.akash-images.com
Never ask the question, can I do it? Just go with ‘I will do it’. Your determination will always take you a long way to your dream, so hold on to it/ www.akash-images.com
She is the best when you believe in herself/ www.akash-images.com
You are the force of nature/ www.akash-images.com
Follow your heart to be the best that you can be/ www.akash-images.com
Courage may be the most important of all virtues, because without it one cannot proactive any other virtue with consistence/ www.akash-images.com
Women today are now coming into their own. They are their own heroes. The power to change their lives lies within them. However well accomplished a woman may be she takes on guilt and responsibility far more easily than a man does. She is conditioned to believe that everyone and everything is her responsibility. Sometimes, she forgets that she has a responsibility towards herself. Accept and love yourself because there is just one YOU!
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"I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls" For me Photography is my language, to access, to communicate, to identify and mostly to make it hear. Through photography I only jot down my heart’s language. The best part about being a photographer is that I’m able to articulate the experiences of the voiceless and to bring their identities to the forefront which gives meaning and purpose to my own life. I have received more than 68 international awards and my work has been featured in over 70 major, international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue,Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London. In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris — once again, the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 I was awarded “Best of Show” at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. And in 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my premier book “First Light”. In 2007 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30), sponsored by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I won the 7th Vevey International Photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009 and in the same year, I took home the international ‘Travel photographer of the Year” title at the International Travel Photographer of the Year Competition (TPOY 2009) in the UK, the most prestigious award in travel photography. I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and as well I was the first Bangladeshi in Ted talk at TEDxOporto 2011, in Portugal. I was one of the speaker of “7th Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism”, Yogyakarta / Indonesia”. In 2011 Nikon has selected me as one of the 8 influencers in Asia pacific (APAC region). Presentation of my 10 years project published as form of book ‘Survivors’ in 2012, which has reviewed by prestigious Geo magazine.